When trying to convince potential patrons to fund work on the phonograph, the motion picture and other projects, Thomas Edison welcomed them into a high-ceiling, book-filled space with lamplight aglow on the wood of shelves and the railings of second- and third-story galleries. His visitors already respected him as the man behind practical electric lighting. Yet to people who had never been able to hear, on a whim, their favorite songs in the comfort of their own homes, this American wizard’s latest endeavors must have sounded like solid investments or at least intriguing possibilities.
Today, you can visit Edson's former haunts at Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, New Jersey. The elegant library still greets visitors, as does the rest of the newly renovated laboratory complex and the Edison family’s nearby estate.
SHORT OF ENTERING EDISON'S MIND for a peek at his inventions in the form of ideas, you can follow them through various stages of development. The drawings in the drafting room would have functioned like DNA, providing guidance as the raw materials in Edison’s stockroom were brought together into new pieces of technology. The heavy machine shop and the precision machine shop delivered the brainchildren of Thomas Alva, whose progeny also sprung forth from the chemistry lab – a world of ovens and tubes reminiscent of the Centre Pompidou or the workshop of a techno-crazed Santa Claus and his elfin geeks; the pattern shop, whence came wooden models of Edison’s devices; and a rebuilt version of the world’s first movie studio, the Black Maria.
Before or after visiting the birthplace of the cinema and recorded sound, tour the Victorian home that Edison shared with his second wife and his flesh-and-blood children, Madeleine, Theodore, and Charles. Beginning November 27, the halls of Glenmont will be decked with poinsettias, greens, bows, wreaths, and a 10-foot tree. Holidays at Glenmont tours will be offered on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from noon until 4 p.m., November 27, 2009, through January 3, 2010. Additional holiday tours will be offered on Wednesday and Thursday, December 30 and 31.
Photo: Thomas Edison with is family at the back porch of Glenmont.